Breathing healthy is living healthy! As you age, your breath tends to shorten, impacting your health in many ways. Well, there is a way out – deep-breathing exercises. Wondering what they are? In this article, we bring you the five best deep breathing exercises that help improve your breathing, how to do them, and their overall benefits.
But before we head forward, let us look at the ins and outs of breathing exercises, also known as ‘Pranayama.’ Scroll down!
In This Article
What Is Pranayama?
Pranayama is the yogic practice of controlling your breath. It is a Sanskrit word that consists of two words – Prana and Yama. ‘Prana’ means breath, and ‘Yama’ means control. It is a process of conscious breathing that emphasizes on deep breaths. Over time, your breathing tends to become short and shallow, which does no good for the body. There is enormous healing energy in the air we breathe. The more we take it in and fill in our lungs, the better. Pranayama is a way to do that with certain specific rules.
You can control the life energy within you through Pranayama and attain a healthy body and mind. The yogic sage Patanjali mentions Pranayama in his text ‘Yoga Sutra’ as an ideal means to attain Samadhi, the highest state of meditative consciousness. It takes energy into your body and flushes out the waste from your body and mind. The Pranayama process involves retention of breath in the body along with inhaling and exhaling. Retention of breath helps in increasing the energy of your body and distributing it throughout your body.
Sounds exciting and powerful, isn’t it? Read on to find out how to do it.
Deep Breathing Exercises Of Pranayama
Pranayama consists of a set of breathing techniques that alter the breath to produce certain beneficial results. Following are some of them.
- Bhastrika Pranayama (Bellows Breath)
- Kapalbhati Pranayama (Skull Shining Breath)
- Bhramari Pranayama (Bee Breath)
- Anulom Vilom (Alternate Nostril Breathing)
- Bahya Pranayama (External Breath)
1. Bhastrika Pranayama (Bellows Breath)
Bhastrika Pranayama or the Bellows Breath is a powerful yoga breathing exercise. It is a cleansing kriya that clears your nadis, nostrils, and sinuses and prepares you for deep breathing. It is also perfect for energizing your body. So, the next time you feel dull and lifeless, instead of reaching for a coffee, try Bhastrika Pranayama.
How To Practice Bhastrika Pranayama
- Sit in the Lotus Position with your back straight.
- Take a deep breath through your nose, filling your lungs with air. Then, breathe out in the same manner. Do this a few times to settle your head.
- After that, begin to exhale quick breaths through your nose forcefully. Follow it up by inhaling in the same manner.
- Your breath should come from your diaphragm, and your belly must move in and out as you breathe. The rest of your body should be still.
- Do a round of bellow breathing, following it up with natural breathing, and then go for the next round. As you breathe naturally, observe the sensations in your body and mind.
- Do at least 3 rounds of Bhastrika and end the session.
Benefits Of Bhastrika Pranayama
- Bhastrika Pranayama strengthens your lungs and helps in curing asthma
- It calms your mind and keeps allergies at bay
- The breathing exercise purifies your breath and improves your heart health
- It treats the common cold and is good for your immune system
- It brings tranquility and peace to your mind
2. Kapalbhati Pranayama (Skull Shining Breath)
Kapalbhati Pranayama or the Skull Shining Breath is a breathing technique that will give you a shining head and a bright intellect with regular practice. It is a ‘shat’ kriya that flushes out toxic air from your body. The word ‘Kapalbhati’ means shining head. ‘Kapal’ means forehead and ‘Bhati’ means shining. Let’s check out how to get one below.
How To Practice Kapalbhati Pranayama
- Sit in Sukhasana and place your palms on your knees. Focus on your belly region.
- Inhale deeply through your nose, filling your lungs with air. Breathe in calmly and consciously.
- Pull your stomach in towards your spine. Place your hand on the stomach and feel the muscles contracting.
- As you relax from the contraction, exhale in a short and quick burst. There will be a hissing sound while you do so. There is automatic inhalation following that.
- Practice one round of Kapalbhati that consists of inhaling and exhaling 20 times. After one round, close your eyes in Sukhasana and observe your body.
Benefits Of Kapalbhati Pranayama
- Kapalbhati improves the functioning of your liver and kidneys
- It gets rid of dark circles and reduces eye strain
- The process calms your brain and rejuvenates your body
- It eliminates acidity and gas-related problems
- The breathing technique improves your memory and concentration power
3. Bhramari Pranayama (Bee Breath)
Bhramari Pranayama or the Bee Breath is named after an Indian black bee called the Bhramari. It is a simple breathing technique that can be practiced anywhere as a quick solution to de-stress. The exhalation during this process is similar to the humming of a bee, which explains its name.
How To Do Bhramari Pranayama
- Sit straight in a position of your choice. Keep a gentle smile on your face
- Close your eyes and observe your body
- Place your index fingers on the cartilage between your cheeks and ears
- Take a deep inhalation. While you exhale, press the cartilage with your index fingers and make a humming sound similar to a bee
- Continue the same breathing pattern for a couple of times
Benefits Of Bhramari Pranayama
- Bhramari Pranayama treats hypertension and reduces anger and anxiety
- It helps reduce migraines and build confidence
- It reduces blood pressure and is good for Alzheimer’s disease
- The technique calms your nerves and reduces frustration
- It gives you a clear voice and reduces throat problems
4. Anulom Vilom (Alternate Nostril Breathing)
Anulom Vilom or Alternate Nostril Breathing is a technique through which nadis, energy passages in your body, are cleared. Through Anulom Vilom’s alternate breathing pattern, the right and left nadis are cleansed, stimulated, and balanced. Let’s check out how to do that.
How To Practice Anulom Vilom
- Sit in Padmasana, Sukhasana, or Vajrasana. Keep your back straight and your chin slightly tucked in towards your chest. Close your eyes.
- Place your left palm on your left knee and let it face upwards in the Gyan mudra.
- Lift your right hand and place your right thumb on the side of your right nostril. Inhale deeply, slowly, and silently through your left nostril.
- After inhalation, press the little finger of your right hand on the side of your left nostril. Exhale through your right nostril – slowly, deeply, and silently.
- Then, inhale through the right nostril. Press the side of your right nostril with your right thumb and exhale through your left nostril. That completes one round of Anulom Vilom.
- Do about 5 rounds initially, and then increase it as per convenience.
Benefits Of Anulom Vilom
- Anulom Vilom enhances your overall health
- It streamlines your metabolism and controls diabetes
- It reduces arthritis and sinusitis
- The technique solves eye and ear issues
- It helps cure allergies and asthma
5. Bahya Pranayama (External Breath)
Bahya Pranayama or the External Breath is named so as it involves retaining the breath after exhaling. As the breath is kept out, it is called the External Breath. ‘Bahya’ means external. It is a three-step process of inhaling, exhaling, and retaining the breath. It is a vital breathing technique. Keep reading to know how to do it.
How To Practice Bahya Pranayama
- Sit straight in Padmasana or Vajrasana
- Inhale deeply and exhale completely
- Hold your breath there while you pull your stomach up and drop your neck towards your chest, while lifting the chest to the chin. Hold on to this position for 5 to 10 seconds. Then, inhale deeply and release your chin and stomach.
- Repeat this process for about 5 minutes
Benefits Of Bahya Pranayama
- Bahya Pranayama cures hernia and acidity
- It cures urinary and reproductive problems
- It increases concentration and helps attain enlightenment
- The technique prevents constipation and gastric problems
- It cures diabetes and prostate related problems
The yogic discipline of Pranayama is the regulation of one’s breath. It is a method of mindful breathing that focuses on taking deep breaths.
Your breathing becomes short and shallow over time, which is bad for your health. The Pranayama breathing exercises mentioned above can help you control your breathing.
Infographic: Precautions For Pranayama
Practicing pranayama is beneficial for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. But it is also essential to note certain precautions before starting deep breathing yoga exercises. They help prevent falling ill or getting injured. So, check out the infographic below to know all the measures you should consider while practicing pranayama.
In addition to breathing and exhaling, the Pranayama technique involves holding the breath in the body. Retention of breath aids in increasing your body’s energy and distributing it throughout your body. Pranayama allows you to control your life energy and achieve a healthy body and mind.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is breath significant?
Breath makes you aware of your body. It keeps your body together. Your body runs on the energy and life provided by the breath.
How does Pranayama help attain enlightenment?
Pranayama cleanses your internal system and makes you pure in thought and action. It will lead you to realize your true identity, thereby helping you connect with the universal energy and feel enlightened.